More Insider Tips for Finishing Your Dissertation Faster | Issue 237
Stop waiting for hard deadlines from your adviser or inspiration from your muse to get going on your dissertation. Jump start your progress with proven strategies to rev up your dissertation process and finish your degree faster from someone who knows. (Reading time: about 5 minutes.)
By Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C.
Did your doctoral program's hidden curriculum catch you unprepared?
I'm referring to the implicit expectation that you will master the principles of self-management on your own. Without self-management skills, you are an easy mark for procrastination, writer's block, and all the other obstacles you are likely to put in your own way. Every ABD student needs to hone these skills to get unstuck, keep the pace up, and finish strong.
If you are hoping that someone will set a hard deadline from you to force you to write, you will benefit enormously from the 10 top insider tips I've culled from experts, research, and experience. The first five tips were shared in the last issue, and below you'll find the final five.
Don't waste time waiting for your advisor or muse to light a fire under you. Take control of yourself and your dissertation by following these tested recommendations:
6. DISCOVER YOUR BEST PROCESS.
What works for your advisor or best friend might not work for you. Does drawing a mind map get your thoughts flowing? Have you tried free writing or outlining? Do you work better with music or silence? There is no one right way to write, as Helen Sword's investigation of prolific academic writers demonstrates.
"Be yourself. Everyone else is almost taken." ~ Oscar Wilde
7. DON'T SKIP THE REWARDS.
Minimizing your achievements is false humility and will thwart your progress. It is not self-indulgent to give yourself a pat yourself on the back or accept one when you show up for what matters. Setting up a reward expectation inclines your mind to keep going when the going gets tough. Find 155 reward ideas, including free ones, here. Be sure to choose rewards that support rather than undermine your other goals, e.g., saving money or losing weight.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less often." ~ C.S. Lewis
8. PROTECT YOUR TORTOISE.
Write first; edit later. It seems our creative mind acts like a shy tortoise; it needs freedom to roam without the threat of imminent attack from a predatory mind poised to doubt, delete, and dismiss. Your writing creature will only emerge when you give it a safe space, says Monty Python's John Cleese.
"It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly." ~ C. J. Cherryh
9. EXPECT YOUR INNER CRITIC.
Count on it to show up right when forward movement is possible. However, you have the power to keep the encounter brief. Here's how: (a) Meet it head on by jotting down its assertions, e.g., "This is total crap." (b) Next, disempower it by adding a preface, e.g., "I am having the thought that again that this is total crap." (3) Lastly, let go of the thought as you commit yourself to action, i.e., doing what is in your long-term best interest. Remember, your thoughts are not facts. While you cannot choose which ones arise, you do get to choose how to respond.
"You don't have to believe everything you think." ~ Contemporary bumper sticker.
10. REMEMBER: HABITS TRUMP WILLPOWER.
Cultivate a sustainable routine. That will train your brain and others to accept that "if it is between 9 am and noon, Adam is writing and cannot be disturbed." Precommitment conserves critical mental energy needed to think and resist temptations. It also creates shared expectations with others that minimize conflicts and misunderstandings.
"We are always developing habits. The real question is which ones." ~ Coach Gayle
In the end, it is up to you to choose to master this implicit doctoral curriculum. Don't expect your professors to impose it. That's not their job. If you sense that you would benefit from professional help as you cultivate your writing and self-management habits, don't hesitate to call a dissertation coach. That's what we are here for.
DID YOU MISS THE FIRST FIVE INSIDER TIPS IN OUR LAST ISSUE? CLICK HERE TO READ.
FOR FURTHER INSPIRATION
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
YouTube: Question of Practicing: Joy Boys Video (2 minutes) with a child's simple wisdom: What you practice, you will get good at.
YOUR OWN COACH
If you are considering whether to get your own coach to help you reach your academic goals, fill out this brief application for a free consultation with a dissertation coach.
GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG.
An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources .
BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.
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